It’s funny — I worked in pen and paper roleplaying games for a long time, and one of the hallmarks of that industry is people coming up to you and telling you about their characters. “I HAVE A LEVEL 14 SPACE JANITOR WITH THE SPECIAL FEAT: DEADLY JAZZ HANDS.” And you nod and smile and say, yes, that’s nice, but you learn to fear those not uncommon moments where someone wants to fix you to a spot and unload their entire character sheet into your brain.
But in fiction, people don’t do that. (Whew.) We’re trained to give a log line, a short elevator pitch (IT’S ALIENS MEETS GOOD WILL HUNTING AS A SPACE JANITOR PLAYS HOST TO A PARASITE NAMED ‘CUPID’ AND HE FINDS LOVE AND…). But really, we still need to be thinking about — and talking about — characters. Character is our entry point into a story. Characters are why we stick around. They’re how we relate. They’re why we give a shit.
Whatever you’re writing right now? Tell us about the protagonist.
Don’t go on too long about it — a paragraph or two, no more — but tell us who they are. What they want. What drives them. What opposes them. Open that character up for discussion and critique. Think about whether or not the character works, or if there’s more you could do — and if there is, ask us. Let’s crowdsource it. COMMAND THE HIVEMIND TO WORK IN YOUR FAVOR.
Or something like that.
Note: if you post about your character, you should endeavor to talk to someone else about their character, too. Quid pro quo, Clarice.
(Extra credit reading: The Zero-Fuckery Quick-Create Guide to Kick-Ass Characters.)